in medias res

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[in med-i-ahs rayss]

The Latin phrase meaning ‘into the middle of things’, applied to the common technique of storytelling by which the narrator begins the story at some exciting point in the middle of the action, thereby gaining the reader's interest before explaining preceding events by analepses (‘flashbacks’) at some later stage. It was conventional to begin epic poems in medias res, as Milton does in Paradise Lost. The technique is also common in plays and in prose fiction: for example, Katherine Mansfield's short story ‘A Dill Pickle’ (1920) begins in medias res with the sentence ‘And then, after six years, she saw him again.’ See also anachrony.

Subjects: Literature.

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